Red Deer’s Valerie Ho had the thrill of a lifetime at the Pan American Games in Lima, Peru.
One that now seems ironic, considering she didn’t know the opportunity existed a year ago.
Ho, 16, competing for Canada, won silver at the games in the Taekwondo Team Poomsae competition on Sunday.
She combined with four other athletes, including Red Deer’s Mark Bush to win silver with a score of 7.120. Their performance was a unique mix of flips, jumps, kicks and spins.
“It feels awesome. So much has gone in the preparation for this event.
“We have all had to sacrifice a lot to train for this event, but it was all worth it to come here and finish second,” said Ho, who missed nearly six weeks of school to prepare.
“I am overwhelmed with emotions today. I am so happy we did this together as a team, but I’m also a little sad it is over.”
The team, which had two members in Alberta, as well as teammates in Toronto, made an extraordinary effort to train together.
“We had to have multiple training camps over the last six months. That was to prepare, for those training camps so I missed over five weeks in one semester of school,” said Ho, a St. Joseph High School student.
“That was a sacrifice I had to make. When we got here, we were really prepared already, because of those training camps. Not as stressful as it could have been.”
Bush, 19, who also trains under Master Rim in Red Deer added that mentally the team was well prepared and that made a big difference.
“This is overwhelming. It feels so good,” said Bush in a Taekwondo Canada press release.
“The key today was our headspace. We were all in a good place. We all wanted to be there on that stage and compete. We told ourselves to just compete and get this done and we did it. I’m so happy we did.”
Ho was Canada’s youngest taekwondo competitor at the games and finished sixth in the individual competition.
She was satisfied with that result, but know there’s more to give down the road.
While there were a few nerves in front of the big crowd and high-pressure environment, she said remembering her training was key to staying focused and performing well.
“During the games, it was a little bit nerve-wracking but still really fun,” said Ho, who started in the sport in 2011.
“I feel like I could have done better because in the end, I got a little too tense. Didn’t do as well as I could have.
“I also gained a lot of experience from this competition. This was my first big tournament.”
The Red Deer product will compete at nationals in January and if she qualifies, compete at worlds in Denmark.